Congratulations to Maimonides junior Itay Nevo '20, recipient of the 2018 Rabbi Reuven Cohn z"l Memorial Award. Established by the Novich and Cohn families, the annual memorial award recognizes a Maimonides School junior “who, upon completion of the required coursework in Jewish History, has demonstrated a meaningful connection with the events, the intricacies, and the essence of the story of our people.”
Rabbi Cohn, a 1965 Maimonides graduate and a respected and admired Jewish history teacher in the Upper School for more than 15 years, died unexpectedly about a year ago. His connection to the school literally spanned his entire life, as his mother, Mrs. Devorah Cohn, taught at the school and his father, Rabbi M.J. Cohn, served as the principal, each for over four decades. In his memory, his family has established the Rabbi Reuven Cohn Memorial Award.
Both of Rabbi Cohn’s children graduated from Maimonides School in the 1990s, and at the time of his passing, three of his granddaughters were students at Maimonides.
“Connecting to the layers and intricacies of Jewish History and Jewish Tradition was the essence of Rabbi Reuven Cohn’s life,” said his daughter Beruria Novich ’94. “Rabbi Cohn was known for his style of teaching — one that brought history alive and asked each student to explore his or her connection to the texts they read. He asked his students to learn about and share their personal family histories.”
She added that “Rabbi Cohn was gifted in recognizing each student ba-asher hu sham, in the place they are, and in encouraging them to engage with our history.”
Rabbi Cohn studied at Yeshiva University, where he received his BA in Mathematics and ordination at the university’s Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary. After marrying his wife Rochelle, the couple moved to Boston so he could pursue graduate school in Jewish Studies at Harvard University.
During this time, from 1972–74, Rabbi Cohn taught Navi at Maimonides School. After completing seven years of graduate studies, Rabbi Cohn pursued a career in law while continuing to teach adults over the years through Ma’ayan, CJP, Hebrew College, and in congregations throughout the Boston area and beyond. In 2002, Rabbi Cohn returned to teach at Maimonides School. While initially he taught Talmud and Beurei HaTefilah, he subsequently narrowed his focus to Jewish History.
The Rabbi Reuven Cohn Memorial Award for Connection and Continuity in Jewish History fund was endowed to support the annual award in perpetuity. The prize will next be awarded in the spring to a member of the class of 2021.
Rabbi Cohn’s parents, Mrs. Devorah and Rabbi Moses J. Cohn, escaped from occupied Poland and Lithuania to the United States during World War II. They travelled through Japan with the assistance of Japanese consul Chiune Sugihara, who provided visas for the students of the Mirrer Yeshiva. The Cohns eventually made their way to Boston. Both were dedicated to Maimonides School and to preserving traditions while developing the Boston Jewish community.